World Leprosy Day: 29th of January - What Do You Really Know About Leprosy?
Published: 22 January 2017
Published: 22 January 2017
Because leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, is rare in Australia (Victoria State Government 2015), you might not know much more about it than what you have seen in media portrayals.
According to South Australian Health (2012), most Australians affected by leprosy are ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from northern Australia and migrants from areas where the disease is more common’.
Did you know that for more than 60 years, World Leprosy Day has taken place on the last Sunday of January, thanks to the French humanitarian, Raoul Folleraeu (Effect Hope 2016)?
Folleraeu aimed to use this day of awareness to catalyse equal care and respect for people with leprosy (Effect Hope 2016). He hoped it could prevent stigmatisation and improve healthcare regarding leprosy, globally.
You may find it interesting that leprosy affects cooler body tissue (e.g. testes, superficial nerves, and the eyes) and it progresses slowly (Victoria State Government 2016) as the bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae), multiplies (WHO 2016).
Leprosy is a chronic infection that is most common in the tropics and subtropics, and can be cured with multi-medicine therapy (Better Health Channel 2016) over 6-24 months, subject to the type of leprosy (SA Health 2012).
WebMD (2015) reports that 16 million people with leprosy have been cured over the last 20 years or so, and the World Health Organization offers free leprosy treatment.
Early treatment and surgery can help to improve deformities and disabilities (SA Health 2012). Treatment is needed to avoid permanent damage such as:
(SA Health 2012)
Contrary to what you may have thought, leprosy is not actually highly contagious (Better Health Channel 2016) and only infects humans (SA Health 2012).
SA Health (2012) reports that transmission occurs from the infected nasal lining of the person with leprosy, to another human’s skin or respiratory tract. Thereby, close contact with infected people increases chances of transmission (Better Health Channel 2016), but not many of the close contacts develop leprosy (SA Health 2012).
In episodes found in new borns and young children it is believed that leprosy passes via the placenta or respiratory droplets (Better Health Channel 2016).
The WHO states leprosy’s incubation period can take five years, however it may take up to as many as twenty years for symptoms of leprosy to show.
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Madeline Gilkes, CNS, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her master of healthcare leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her brief research proposal for her PhD application involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is working towards Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) status and primarily works in the role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. See Educator Profile